Frank S. Clark
Francis Samuel Clark.
The goofy kid with the hat and glasses.
On Friday, March 23rd, 2018, around 6:30pm in Fresno California, my father dozed off into the sunset for eternity. Just six weeks shy of his 92nd birthday, we can safely say he had a very good run for his money. Apparently he was comfortable and at peace, the way we’d all like to go.
He was old but still silly and funny and delightful. It was a strange thing to see him declining in recent years–and even stranger when I had a conversation with him in February and it was clear he wasn’t entirely sure who I was–because the man I knew was sharp as a whip. So, in some ways, I’m glad the less vibrant man who’d started consuming my father’s excellent brain decided to sleep it out for all time. But he will be sorely missed.
Frank S. Clark was many things:
Frank, or Francisco as he was called by some of his friends, was a secular Franciscan and devoted to his community at the St. Paul Catholic Newman Center in Fresno. We were his family, but they were his people. They loved him and he loved them. Throughout my 54 years as his daughter, I saw his dedication to his spiritual life grow and settle into every cell of his being.
Keykey was a brother to a remarkable man, Fr. Benjamin aka Charles Clark, who was a Trappist monk at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. Fr. Benjamin was also an engineer and electrician, a ham radio operator and, early on, a scribe to Thomas Merton. And he was Keykey’s older brother, the bigger boy in the photo sitting with his hands folded, biting his lip in what I can only imagine was suppressed laughter. He was the serious one. My father was the prankster.
Frank was a son and spoke often of how blessed he was to have had such wonderful parents. His father died when he was young, long before my father had kids of his own, so none of us ever knew him. But his mother, Pauline Eaker Clark, was perhaps the kindest human I’ve ever known. She died when I was 11 and I miss her still. She raised her boys to care about other people and that they did.
Mr. Clark was a husband and, if I’m honest, this was not his strongest calling. He was responsible and provided well for all of us, but I suspect the biggest problem with my parents’ marriage is that they were never well matched. For both their sakes, I hope my parents are at opposite ends of the table in the afterlife. I wish them both peace and resolution for their souls. And that I will simply leave at that.
He was a father and at this, he was not perfect–nobody is–but definitely the gentler of the two we were assigned. He loved us unconditionally and was proud of his children. We were good kids and spending time with him was fun. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I have many fond memories of my time with my father. Sadly for those still here, I believe I have inherited his sense of humor which is pretty silly. We both loved to make up words to songs and puns were a specialty. A song we did not corrupt, but sang often, was the nursery rhyme Animal Fair.
I went to the animal fair, the birds and the beasts were there. The big baboon, by the light of the moon, was coming his auburn hair. The monkey he got drunk, and sat on the elephant’s trunk. The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees, and what became of the monk, the monk, the monk?
The only thing with this, however, was that as a kid I sort of worried it was about my uncle, Fr Benjamin, the monk, but my father always reassured me his brother was fine and so was the monkey in the story. It seemed he could always find the right thing to say to so soothe my worries. I believe he prayed for all five of us each and every day, whether we were near or far, he was thinking of us. He wasn’t always in constant touch for a variety of reasons, but when he was, or had news of us, I am certain he was reassured to know we were all okay.
Above all, I believe, Frank was a friend. He was a friend to everyone. He’d always call the waiter or waitress by their name and ask how their day was going. He could strike up a conversation with anyone he met, however briefly, and by the end it felt like they’d been life-long buddies. His generosity extended to many. Sometimes a bit too much, but that was who he was. And that is who we are which is not a bad thing to be.
He was many other things, I’m sure, but these are the parts of him that I knew best. I will miss him and his calls and our silly discussions about the world and politics and nonsense alike. I am lucky he was my father and I am relieved he is finally at rest.
I love you Papa, Rest In Peace.